Back in 2009, Popular Photography announced the winning photos of its latest Reader’s Photos Contest. Two of the winners (shown above) had some photographers scratching their heads, due to the fact that they’re “Photoshop jobs” rather than non-manipulated stills.
The New York Post sparked a firestorm of controversy last week after publishing a photo of a man about to be struck by a subway train. People around the world were outraged that a photographer decided to photograph what had occurred, that he had sold (or, in the photographer’s words, licensed) the photo to a newspaper, and that the paper decided to publish it with a sensationalist front page story.
The New York Times found an eerily similar story on its hands this week, but its handling of the situation — and the subsequent public reaction to the article — has been drastically different.
Last month photographer Chris Crisman entered the photograph above, titled Butterfly Girl, into the World Photography Organization’s 2012 World Photography Awards. It was selected from the thousands of entries as part of a promotional campaign for the contest and in that process was spread out all over the Internet. From the Daily Mail to the Huffington Post, the story about the World Photo Awards and Chris’s photo made the rounds across the web.
In particular, on the UK news site The Daily Mail, the photo generated a ton of comments and sparked some controversy as to whether or not it was appropriate for a photography competition. This caused me to ask myself the question: “What defines a photograph?”
If you happen to catch a glance of the New York Post’s cover today, the above photo is what you’ll see. It’s an attention grabbing image, showing a man who is moments away from being struck and killed by an oncoming subway train in New York City. It’s also a controversial image, not just because of the morbid moment it captures, but because of the fact that it even exists.
The National Gallery in London, the world’s 4th most visited art museum, is currently holding its first major exhibition of photography, titled, “Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present.” Andrew Graham-Dixon of The Telegraph has published a review of the show, and has some strong opinions on photography’s place in the art world:
The truth is that very few photographers have ever produced images with the weight of thought and feeling found in the greatest paintings. The camera is certainly an artistic tool, and photos can certainly be works of art. But can they be works of art of the same order as paintings? Modern critical orthodoxy would say yes. But the real answer is no. Photography lacks the depth and heft, the thinking sense of touch, that painting possesses.
That is why the greatest images of the last 150 years– the images people argue about, contest, return to again and again – are not photographs but paintings
Brian Sewell over at The London Evening Standard has written up a lengthier, but equally critical, review.
Seduced by Art: Seven magazine review [The Telegraph via POTB]
Image credits: Photograph by Maisie Broadhead and painting by Thomas Gainsborough
The debate rages on: should appropriated Google Street View photographs be considered art? There are quite a few artists and photographers out there who think it should be. Photographer Michael Wolf was awarded Honorable Mention for his curated screenshots at the World Press Photo 2011. Photographer Aaron Hobson takes screenshots and turns them into gorgeous panoramic photos. Jon Rafman’s screenshots were picked for an exhibition at London’s Saatchi Gallery.
Now here’s another case that might cause a lot more head-scratching: photographer Doug Rickard‘s Street View screenshots have been selected for the permanent collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Just a few hours ago, a man opened fire at the Empire State Building in New York City, killing a former co-worker before being gunned down by police. Ryan Pitcheralle was passing through the area when the shooting occurred, and used Instagram to capture a photograph of the victim lying in a pool of blood.
In 2011, photographer Michael Wolf was awarded Honorable Mention in the World Press Photo 2011 contest for screenshots taken from Google Street View. It immediately sparked a debate regarding whether or not the work should even be considered “original photography”. The Independent has an interesting article about a different Street View “photographer”: Jon Rafman, whose work we’ve featured here before.
At first, [Rafman] would spend eight to 12 hours at a time traversing the globe from his desktop. “It was destroying my body,” he says. But when the images he’d collected went viral online, he began to take submissions from other users, too. Some had collected images of prostitutes at work, others presented car accidents, even dead bodies left by the side of the road – and, presumably, ignored by Google’s drivers. Many of the images in the exhibition have now been wiped from the web: the perps lined up against a wall by the São Paolo police are gone from Google Maps. A man sitting with his legs splayed strangely around a lamppost in Toronto has been blurred into obscurity.
Rafman’s images, by contrast, are almost entirely untreated. He even leaves the Google Street View navigation tool in the top-left corner of each photograph. “The work is connected to the history of street photography,” he explains, “but also to the 20th-century ready-made movement. So leaving those artefacts in the image is extremely important. In the bottom-left corner of each picture is a link that says, ‘Report a problem’.
His work, titled The Nine Eyes of Google Street View, will soon be exhibited at London’s Saatchi Gallery.
Google Street View photographs: the man on the street [The Independent]
Professor and self-proclaimed cyborg Steve Mann created an eye and memory-aid device he calls the EyeTap Digital Glass. The EyeTap, worn by Mann above on the left, is a wearable device that is similar to Google Eye, pictured right, but he’s been making them at home since the 1980s. The goal of his project is to use images to aid memory, or even to augment the memories of people with Alzheimer’s Disease or who simply want to preserve their memories more permanently. However, a recent misunderstanding over Mann’s technology allegedly caused a confrontation between Mann and several employees at a Paris McDonald’s restaurant.
Over the past month there has been a back and forth going on in the background of the photographic community between writers/photographers Joerg Colberg and Edward Rozzo. The discussion — which has turned into a fascinating debate on the static present and uncertain future of contemporary photography — was sparked by an article by Colberg entitled “Photography After Photography (A Provocation),” and provocative it was.
Photography has finally arrived at its own existential crisis. It is far from being over – no medium is ever over as long as there is just an ounce of creativity left on this planet. But photography has long been running in a circle. Over the past ten years, it has increasingly become dominated by nostalgia and conservatism. Even the idea that we now need editors or curators to create meaning out of the flood of photographs ultimately is conservative, looking backwards when we could, no we should be looking forward.